Embrace the darkness

It’s always a priceless moment on Daylight Savings Sunday.  As the crowd that set their clocks ahead leave worship, those who didn’t enter the sanctuary a bit bewildered.  Being a staff minister, it’s always a restless night, for fear that I’ll somehow mess up my alarm and be late for the early service.  Stories like that always manage to get told… again… and again.

It’s a tough call.  Lose an hour of sleep.  Gain an hour of daylight.  This week, my vote would be for the sleep.  If you’re feeling a bit sluggish post DST change, Swedish health and welfare researchers say it’s because your chronobiological rhythms have been disrupted.  Now you know why your head hurts.

I know extra daylight is important for energy conservation and it makes me more hopeful when the sun doesn’t set before I get home from work.  But darkness gets a bad rap sometimes.  We don’t like darkness.  We avoid it.  It makes us tired, depressed, fearful.

Lately, though, I’ve come to appreciate darkness; embrace it, even.  Mostly because of Snickers, my 13 year old German shepherd. In the last three months, Snickers has gone totally blind.  A brain tumor.  Her world has become unfamiliar to her.  She’s moves like a stranger in her own house, gets lost in her own backyard, and steps on the cat by accident which, deep down, I believe, still brings her great joy.

It has changed our routine, taking care of Snickers.  While before we could simply let her out the back door at 5 am, now we must take her by leash, as there are stairs to negotiate and too much yard to have to go hunt for her in the dark.  Ten minutes outside in your pajamas in the winter is like an eternity.  And, until I learned to take a flashlight with me, I returned to the house more than once with a present on my shoes.

Any yet that became sacred space to me.  Who would have believed holy ground would be found right outside my back door?  Or have dog poop on it?

But there in the darkness I have experienced her vulnerability, her utter dependence, her uncertainty.  So many words have come to mind as we’ve walked that I’ve wanted to say to her, to ease her fear, to calm her, to help her.  I realized, recently, that those words weren’t for Snickers at all; not really.  God’s been meeting me there in the darkness, in the lost places of my own life, assuring me of the very things I want for her.

Practice the spiritual discipline of Embracing the Darkness this Lenten season.  Close your eyes and stand up.  Hold out your hands, palms up.  Know that to move from where you are invites both possibility and danger.  Acknowledge your dependence on God to know which way to turn, to see what is ahead of you and guide you through or around or over.  Where is the vulnerable place in your life right now?  The hesitation?  Where are you lost or afraid or turned around? Trust that God is there in the middle of it.  Listen closely in the darkness.  Maybe you’ll hear something like what I heard.

“When you go to take a step, and it feels like there’s no ground beneath you, no place to land, feel my hand on you and lean in to me. I won’t let you fall.  If I didn’t believe you could do it, I wouldn’t ask you to.”

“When I tug at you gently, pay attention.  Go where I lead.  I’m not messing with you; I’m trying to keep you from walking into a tree.”

“When I slow you down and pull you back, there’s something ahead you need to prepare for.  You need a minute to remember that you’ve done this before; to trust yourself.  ‘You’ve got this.’”

“When you get lost in your own backyard, when you get so tired of walking in circles that you give up and lay down at the back fence, I will always, always, come and find you and bring you back to the house.”

“Even when you don’t know me, don’t see me, can’t hear me – I’m still there.  And when we get to the end, whenever that is, I will be there, too.  You are not alone.”

I love you, sweet Snicker Doodle Davis.

Embrace the darkness.  In it you will find the light you’re searching for.

 

Jayne Davis

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About the Author
Jayne Davis is Minister of Spiritual Formation at First Baptist Church, Wilmington, N.C. She is part of the Hopeful Imagination ministry team, encouraging churches and church leaders in a changing world. Jayne is co-author of the book Hopeful Imagination and posts on Facebook at Spiritual Formation - Along the Way and is trying to learn to Tweet, though, being from the Bronx, is paranoid about people following her.

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  • LindaSmithGurganus

    Jayne, this is beautiful.  We also have an old dog.  Molly is almost deaf and almost blind.  It may not be long till we have to do the same.  I will be thinking about the analogies you made to our own lives.  Thank you.

  • LindaSmithGurganus

    Jayne, this is beautiful.  We also have an old dog.  Molly is almost deaf and almost blind.  It may not be long till we have to do the same.  I will be thinking about the analogies you made to our own lives.  Thank you.

  • JayneDavis

    Yesterday, we said goodbye to Snickers.  In the midst of many tears, there was, indeed, light in the darkness.  The doctor gave her an initial sedative.  As she fell asleep she began snoring, long and deep.  I had no idea how tired she was until she was finally able to rest.  It gave me great peace to see her rest.
    So many days we are like that.  We push through and we struggle and we fight the good fight, but all along God is saying – come and rest in me.  There is where you will find peace – in the moment, and forever.
    Grace & Peace,
    Jayne

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